Can You Bring Alcohol On A Plane? Carry On Or Checked? The TSA Rules Explained

Last Updated on January 16, 2021

The TSA alcohol rules can be a little bit complicated. You can bring alcohol on a plane but there are things that you need to be aware of.

The size of the bottle and the strength of the alcohol determines what alcohol you can bring on a plane.

I wrote this post to explain all you need to know about flying with alcohol.

So let’s find out what booze you can take!

TSA Alcohol (Liquor) Regulations

Alcohol Over 70% ABV

According to the TSA, you are not allowed to bring alcohol over 140 proof in either your carry on bag or your checked bag. So strong liquor over 70% ABV is prohibited from flights entirely.

Over 140 proof (70% ABV) is exceptionally strong liquor and your average vodka, gin or whiskey won’t be anywhere near that strength. Alcohol that is so strong is too flammable to go on planes, that’s why it’s banned.

The is also a subtext in this rule. TSA officers must be able to identify the strength of your liquor from the label. So it’s probably not a good idea to pack an unlabeled bottle of moonshine in your suitcase. It maybe be rejected on the basis that the strength is unidentifiable.

Alcohol Between 24% – 70%

These rules apply to most liquors including vodka, rum, whiskey, and gin.

Liquor is a liquid. So when packing carry on luggage any liquor that you pack at home should be in bottles under 3.4 oz (100 ml). That means packing those little mini bottles inside your quart-sized bag where your shampoo normally goes.

There is a potential TSA hack for taking a full bottle of liquor on a plane, you can check it out here.

You can pack a maximum of 5 liters of liquor (1.3 gallons) in checked baggage. If you are unsure how much alcohol is 5 liters you can check this post. This should be in original retail packaging. Keep in mind that if your bag is overweight you may be charged by the airline.

Also, remember that if you are importing liquor into the US you are only able to bring 1 liter duty free.

You will be charged duty on the other 4 liters.

Alcohol Under 24 %

The 3-1-1 liquids rule also applies to alcoholic beverages under 24% ABV. This rule applies to most wines, beer, and cider.

You could, in theory, take a small amount of wine or beer in your liquids bag. This would be in a bottle under 100 ml or 3.4 oz. That’s really not a lot of beer or wine and you are not permitted to pour it for yourself on the plane anyway.

You can pack as much wine, beer, or cider in your checked luggage are you like as long as it’s under 24% ABV.

Again, be very careful with check-in luggage weight limits. Adding a lot of beer to your check-in bag is a sure way to go over the 50 lb weight limit that is common for checked bags.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Sneak Alcohol On A Plane?

You don’t need to sneak alcohol on a plane, you are allowed to bring it. However, you are not allowed to serve it to yourself.

This rule is in place so that air stewards can decide if someone has had too much to drink and refuse to serve them any more.

While it can be frustrating to not be able to pour yourself a drink it’s actually a sensible rule.

Planes can sometimes be diverted due to drunk and unruly passengers and you wouldn’t want your flight diverted and end up at the wrong destination because someone was drunk now would you?

If you are going to pour your own alcohol then make sure you don’t get caught. There is fines of up to $11000 for serving yourself alcohol.

How To Pack Alcohol in Checked Luggage?

When packing alcohol in a checked bag it’s important to make sure the bottle is not going to break.

Luggage handlers are not known for their gentle touch.

You could invest in a wine suitcase.

You could use a wine bottle protector

You could also pack a bottle of liquor inside a dry bag which can be useful for storing more than just wine.

Failing that, pack your bottle surrounded by the most fluffy voluminous clothes you have like a sweater and hope for the best.

But if your bottle breaks it could make a real mess of your suitcase, don’t say you weren’t warned!

How Much Alcohol Can You Bring On A Plane?

That depends if you are packing it in your carry-on bag or checked luggage.

In your carry on it’s very restricted. Any alcohol must go inside your quart-sized liquids bag.

For checked luggage you can bring unlimited low strength alcohol like beer or wine. You can bring up to 5 liters of liquor. If it’s high strength alcohol over 70% ABV you can’t bring it at all. Strong flammable liquor is banned from carryon and checked baggage.

When it comes to travel sized alcohol bottles…

A quart bag is 946 ml. So you might be able to fit 7 or 8 mini alcohol bottles in a quart bag. That’s assume you are taking no other liquids with you since you are only permitted 1 quart bag per person.

Can You Drink Your Own Alcohol On a Plane?

You can bring small amounts of your own alcohol on a plane packing inside your liquids bag. The bottles must be under 3.4 oz (100 ml). They also must “fit comfortably” inside your quart bag. You can’t squeeze too many it.

But you are not permitted to pour and drink those mini alcohol bottles yourself while on the plane. You can ask a flight attendant to pour it for you.

So far, only JetBlue has publicly said that they are happy to pour your own liquor for you. Most US airlines still have a policy that if you want alcohol during your flight you must buy it from them.

As per the FAA alcohol rules, it’s not illegal to bring alcohol on a plane. But it is illegal to pour a drink for yourself!

You can potentially get a big fine for pouring and drinking your own alcohol on a plane.

Can You Bring Wine On A Plane?

A standard glass of wine is 150 ml. You can bring 100 ml bottles of wine in your hand luggage if you can even find somewhere to buy such a small bottle… but you can not legally pour and drink the wine yourself! You can’t bring a standard size bottle of wine on a plane.

You can pack unlimited amounts of wine in checked bags. Keep in mind that if you are flying across international border you may need to declare the wine and pay tax on it when you land.

Can You Take A Hip Flask On An Airplane?

You can take an empty hip flask without any problems. If you want to put booze in it it will need to be smaller than 100 ml and you’ll need to pack the flask inside your clear quart-sized liquids bag.

Can I Bring Alcohol On A Plane Under 21?

You are not permitted to be in possession of alcohol when you are under 21. This includes when you are smuggling it inside your checked luggage. Of course, the people who are checking inside the checked luggage are not checking your age at the same time that they search your bag. It’s unlikely that anything will happen if you put a bottle in your checked bag. But it is still illegal.

The Exception To The Rule – Duty Free Alcohol In Hand Luggage

The only time that you can bring alcohol greater than 100 ml or 3.4 oz onto a plane in your hand luggage is if you have bought the alcohol after airport security.

This typically means buying at a duty-free shop at an international airport.

If you buy alcohol at a duty-free shop it will be packaged in a secure, tamper-evident that you are not permitted to open.

You need to keep in mind that if you have a connecting flight in the US you will be required to go through airport security again.

In 2014 started to allow you to use the secure tamper-evident bags for connecting flights in the US. So you should be able to take your duty-free alcohol in your carry on luggage in this instance. So long as you can prove you purchased the alcohol in the last 48 hours.

At that point, you will be forced to check your carry on bag since

The Verdict

You can bring alcohol on a plane but you can’t drink it. Unless you are flying with JetBlue.

If you want to bring any serious amount of alcohol you’ll need to pack it in your checked luggage or buy it at a duty-free shop.

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